Exploring England's Sparkling Wines

Concealed for many years under the guise of British humor, English wine is no longer something to laugh at, although many Brits would like us to continue to think so. They would prefer to keep the local bottle prices down and enjoy their weekend outings to tasting rooms tucked away in the lush English countryside, unfettered by foreign wine enthusiasts such as ourselves. However, the truth is that Southern England is now one of the fastest growing and most exciting wine regions in the world. It is also one of the most pleasurable places to visit, offering centuries of history infused by charming architecture and landscapes, mixed with an abundance of English hospitality and cheer. The result is a 'dosage' worth savoring.

Food & Wine Trails has partnered with a team of local sommeliers to provide you with an introduction to some of the best English sparkling (and some still) wines, along with culinary experiences ranging from traditional to modern English cuisine and on to afternoon tea. This three day pre-cruise package is set in the heart of South Downs National Park and a short distance from the region's top producers. From rolling farmland and ancient woodlands to picturesque market towns and historic estates, this area embodies the quintessential English countryside holiday.

Day 1 [D]

Upon arrival in London you will enjoy the services of a private car and driver for your journey to Midhurst, England. This delightful market town's name means "among the wooded hills" in Old English and it is home to one of the oldest coaching inns in England, The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa. Dating back to 1430 this historic building still has its original lattice windows, exposed wooden beams and undulated floors, but provides all the modern amenities and comfort including a spa with four treatment rooms, a Jacuzzi and swimming pool. After settling into your room, take a walk around town or enjoy a drink at the hotel's cottage-like lounge before joining local sommelier Cindy-Marie for an introduction to English wines followed by a wine-paired dinner in the hotel's private dining room.

Day 2 [B, L]

Enjoy a proper English breakfast this morning served at the hotel. Meet your sommelier guide Cindy-Marie in the lobby and depart for a tour of West Sussex. Your first visit of the day is Stopham Vineyard. Started from scratch in 2007 by Simon Woodhead, who planted 21,000 vines on 15 acres of meadowland overlooking the Arun River and South Downs National Park. Stopham is creating some exciting sparkling and still wines that have earned accolades from wine critics across the country. Born in Brighton, England, Simon was an electrical technician for Formula One race cars in Spain before he became increasingly enthralled by Spanish wines, which eventually led him to the crazy idea of making wine on a small farm in West Sussex. Simon will give you a tour of his vineyard providing you with insights on how his wine is made from soil to bottle. Then on his rustic farm he will lead you through a tasting of his delicious sparkling and still wines.

Your next stop is Nutbourne Vineyards, a boutique winery created by the Gladwin Family in 1991. Each family member plays a part in the growing, vinification and operations of these award winning wines from a range of styles, both sparkling and still. Leveraging a unique terroir similar in several aspects to that of Champagne, the Gladwins grow seven different grape varieties, some of which you will probably taste for the for the first time. A family member will welcome you upon arrival and give you a tour of the vineyard and estate. A tasting will be conducted in an ancient windmill before moving next door for lunch paired with a selection of their estate wines.

Following lunch you will return to Midhurst to further explore town or relax at the hotel for afternoon tea or a spa. In the late afternoon you will have the chance to visit Midhurst's most prized attraction, the ruins of Cowdray Castle. This fortified Tudor Manor House used to be one of England's greatest examples of Tudor architecture until it was largely destroyed by a fire in 1793. After your guided tour you will be free this evening to dine again at the hotel or at one of the restaurants in town.

Day 3 [B]

After breakfast this morning you will check out of the hotel and meet your guide in the lobby for a departure to Hambledon Vineyard. As England's oldest commercial vineyard, Hambledon boasts a long and fascinating history and produces some of the best sparkling wine in the country. Not only is it the birthplace of the modern English wine industry, it is also the birthplace of England's most English sport: cricket! After a brief tour of the estate, you will participate in a truly special tasting experience seldom experienced by the public to fully understand the importance of dosage in sparkling wines. You will have the opportunity to disgorge a bottle of Hambledon, learn how to cork and label it, and take away your very own bottle of English Sparkling! To end the visit, enjoy a tasting of all four of their Cuveés with a selection of canapés inspired by the wonderful produce of the South Downs National Park.

What a way to start the day! Following your visit at Hambledon, a 45-minute transfer brings you to the ship in Southampton for embarkation and time for lunch.

Registration Form

Download Optional 2-Night Pre-Cruise Program Registration Form

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Per Person Price: $1,289 Single Supplement: $266

Tour Includes: Transportation to the hotel from London Heathrow airport or central London, two (2) nights hotel accommodations in a Midhurst category room, a local sommelier guide, two (2) English breakfasts, a wine-paired welcome dinner, lunch at a winery, all tour and tasting fees, transportation on a deluxe AC motorcoach, bottled water on the motorcoach, hotel porterage, transfer to ship, and all local taxes.

Not Included: Gratuities for the drivers and guides, hotel upgrades and/or additional hotel nights, and all items of a personal nature.

Activity Level: There will be walking on uneven surfaces to negotiate throughout the tour. Tour not suggested for wheelchairs or people with mobility issues due to extended walking.

Note: Times and providers are subject to change.

Travel Insurance: F&WT highly encourages protecting your travel investment in case of an emergency requiring you to cancel your trip. Your F&WT Travel Advisor can assist you with procuring the appropriate coverage. Please make sure to read the cancellation policy on the registration form outlining our cancellation policy.